Can Paul McCartney Sing “Imagine”?

Can Paul McCartney Sing “Imagine”? | I Love Classic Rock Videos

John Lennon and Paul McCartney - Beatle Stories / Youtube

Among the vast catalog of music left behind by The Beatles, John Lennon’s “Imagine” stands as a towering giant. Its poignant lyrics and timeless message have resonated with generations, solidifying its place as one of the most recognizable songs in history.

Yet, amidst the countless covers and renditions it’s inspired, one voice remains conspicuously absent: that of Paul McCartney. The question, then, begs to be asked – why did the other half of the legendary songwriting duo never attempt his own interpretation of “Imagine”?

While McCartney has embraced covering various songs throughout his career, “Imagine” has always remained untouched. This deliberate choice, however, stems not from a lack of respect or appreciation, but from a deep understanding of the song’s unique position.

Love it or hate it, McCartney’s reasoning behind his decision sheds light on the profound impact “Imagine” has had on the world, and the delicate balance between honoring a legacy and respecting its inherent power.

The song was covered by everyone

Even the most ardent Paul McCartney fan might be surprised to learn he’s never covered John Lennon’s iconic “Imagine”. This deliberate choice, revealed in a 1990 interview with Rolling Stone, stemmed from a deep respect for the song’s unique status and a desire to honor Lennon’s legacy authentically.

McCartney initially considered a grand tribute to his friend, stating, “I was going to have a whacking great picture of John and just say, ‘He was my friend. Which was true. I’m totally proud to have worked with him.'” However, the idea felt “too precious, too showbiz,” lacking the genuineness he desired.

Fans, however, pushed for a more traditional gesture. “People started saying, ‘Why don’t you do ‘Imagine?'” McCartney recalled. His response was blunt: “‘F****** hell, Diana Ross does ‘Imagine.’ They all do ‘Imagine’.”

By 1990, “Imagine” had been covered by countless artists, from Elton John to Joan Baez. Since then, names like Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Yoko Ono have joined the list. Understanding McCartney’s perspective requires recognizing the oversaturation of “Imagine” covers. To some, it had become a cliché, devoid of genuine meaning.

“If you do it well enough, that’s what people will remember”

Macca explained his decision by emphasizing the importance of letting his own work speak for itself: “That’s when I backed off the whole thing. You go on tour, you sing your songs, arrange ’em nice, do it, and if you do it well enough, that’s what people will remember.”

Despite the “Imagine” decision, Paul’s care for John shines through. The interview itself displays his genuine admiration for his former bandmate. He emphasizes his pride in collaborating with John and their shared legacy.

But Paul still has the competitive spirit that made him an ace in the most popular band of all time. When asked about his position in the “rock star pecking order”, this spirit surfaced once more.

He declared, “I’d put me at the top. Just because I’m a competitor, man.” He used athletes like Ed Moses and Mike Tyson as examples, suggesting a champion mentality shouldn’t downplay achievements. While his statement could be interpreted as self-aggrandizing, it’s important to consider the context of the question and his natural competitiveness.

Paul thinks highly of “Imagine”

While Paul never covered “Imagine”, his choice doesn’t stem from disliking the song. In a 2002 interview, he acknowledged the difficulty of their songwriting partnership ending, but also praised John’s ability to independently create one of the greatest songs of all time.

It’s important to note that John wrote “Imagine” with Yoko Ono’s contributions, and production involved both of them alongside Phil Spector.

So, will Paul ever cover “Imagine”? It seems unlikely. As Paul aptly said, the song’s widespread popularity and countless renditions already saturate the landscape. And adding his own version might not contribute much.

Instead, he might dive into John’s lesser-known works. Tracks like “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” could offer fresh exploration and avoid comparisons to the countless “Imagine” covers. Ultimately, Paul’s decision reflects his respect for John’s legacy and the unique power “Imagine” already holds.